This was the question that Mark Twain posed in his novella, The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg. In this delightful little novella, there is a town called Hadleyburg in that prides itself on beings scrupulously honest. A man who was dealt a slight by the town decides to get his revenge by proving that they are, after all, nothing but greedy men who are willing to lie to get what they want.
I’m not going to tell you how he accomplishes this feat. Suffice it to say that he does indeed manage to corrupt the incorruptible leaders of Hadleyburg, much to everyone’s dismay and chagrin. It is a true Twain work, full of inventive language and full caricatures, and it is a delightful little discussion on just how to push humanity’s buttons and bring out the greed that is natural to our species.
If you’re looking for a quick, lighthearted, yet provocative read. I’d suggest you pick this up. You’ll work your way through it in no time, but be the richer for it.